Even from a quick look on the box for 'Super Aquatic Games' its clear this is a game for children. The stars of this game are the "Aquabats" a bright colourful bunch of human like fish that include "James Pond" from previous game 'Robocod'. Alongside the underwater agent is unicycle riding Mark the Shark, a happy go lucky frog in running shorts and a starfish with an expression that can only be described as pure rapture. They all leap from the box excitable and enthusiastic, like characters from a Cbeebies cartoon. Text dotted around the box really does remove any doubt as to whom the game is aimed at. "Suitable for girls and boys of all ages" it clarifies.
This is a game that is not aimed at cynical adults with a thirst for violence, it's one aimed at young children who crave the bright and joyous. It's was a game that would never do well with magazine reviewers, unless of course it's critique written by a four year old. Nintendo Magazine System were particularly scathing "a terrible attempt at reviving a long dead genre" they wrote, giving the game less than half marks. It was a view shared by countless others. “It’s all very slick and everything” wrote Jonathan Davies for Super Play “but all this technical finery makes a collection of impossibly simple and repetitive games that you’ll quickly get tired of”. Even one of the games’ biggest cheerleaders Simon Byron (now known for hosting the ‘One Life Left’ Podcast) struggled to find praise. “I think that ‘Aquatic Games’ has enough humour and nice touches to warrant a purchase by all but the most sophisticated gamer” he claimed in a review for One Magazine. “The graphics style here is quite simply excellent and all the cartoonish characters are completely lovable.”
Reviewers seem certain that "childish game play" merited a low score, but it because of this very reason that I wanted the game.
I vaguely remembered the game from my own youth and had hoped that the different mini games that make up 'Super Aquatic Games' would be ideal for her. Sadly though, the critic’s negativity is actually warranted. Having spent some time playing it with her I’ve discovered that if it's a game that's to be enjoyed by the very young it's far too complex and as a game for adults it's far too limited.
Take the event called "Feeding Time" for example. The object of this mini game is to help Freddy Starfish feed other fish, by collecting food in a bucket and then pouring it into their waiting mouths. Unless you do this quickly enough they get caught on a fishing line and the mini game ends. My daughter could not fill up the bucket and feed the fish within 17 seconds and consequently every time she tried it, the event ended seconds after it began.
The levels in 'Super Aquatic Sports' all seem to be derived from one of four templates and so often it looks like it’s just a different character taking on the same event. Equally repetitive is the music. Though it may be happy, bouncy and jolly the two or three tracks in the game repeat so often they become annoying. This is made all the worse when a child is playing it and you end up just hearing the first 15 seconds of a track on repeat, as they repeatedly try the same level over and over again.